Contact-hitting shortstop Tyler Freeman is our No. 2 Cleveland Indians prospect after raking in 40% of the vote yesterday, improving on his No. 5 ranking last year and his No. 16 ranking in 2018.
Freeman was a second round compensation pick by the Indians in the 2017 MLB Draft, a year where the Tribe did not have a first round pick.
He hit the ground running, putting up above average numbers in Arizona with a 116 wRC+ in his first 36 games after being drafted, but where he truly impressed was Mahoning Valley in his second season.
Despite not starting his season until June, Freeman put up ridiculous numbers in 2018, slashing .352/.405/.511 for the Scrappers, winning the New York Penn League’s batting title by 21 points and beating the third-best hitter by nearly 50 points. He had a ridiculous 168 wRC+ and his 29 doubles in a shortened season topped nearly every full-season player in the Indians organization that year.
Freeman earned a promotion to full-season ball in 2019 and continued to impress, slashing .292/.382/.424 for the Captains and not only earning mid-season All-Star honors with his 138 wRC+ but also earning a promotion to High-A Lynchburg, where he actually improved both his batting average to .317 and also dropped his strikeout rate to single digits at 9.1% despite practically having the same amount of at bats at both levels.
Freeman does not walk much (6.6% at Lake County and just 2.9% for Lynchburg), but he makes up for it with his low strikeout rate, excellent bat-to-ball skills, and, perhaps something most haven’t noticed, the fact that he crowds the plate and gets blasted by pitchers repeatedly. Freeman may have only walked 26 times in 2019, but he was hit by 24 pitches, nearly doubling his on-base opportunities.
As long as he can get beaned without getting seriously injured, I’m all for it.
Power also could be an issue, as he’s only hit 7 home runs in 2 1⁄2 seasons, notably not hitting any balls further than 381 feet in the 2019 season, but at 6-foot-0 and 170 pounds, there is still a bit of potential development for his frame, and Tribe hitting coaches have been successful helping middle infielders tap into their power in the past.
The 20-year-old has been able to stay at shortstop for the majority of his career, although he has played 20 games at second base. Perhaps the most promising statistic is he played the best defense of his career (6 errors in 249 total chances) during his 62-game stint in High-A last season, good for a .976 fielding percentage.
Look for Freeman to begin the season at High-A Lynchburg where he left off, but as long as he keeps hitting, it won’t be long before he’s in Double-A Akron and beyond.
Ethan Hankins, RHP (Age 19)
2019 (A-): 8 GS, 38.2 IP, 27.9 K%, 11.7 BB%, 1.20 ERA, 3.22 FIP
2019 (A): 5 GS, 21.1 IP, 29.8 K%, 12.8 BB%, 4.64 ERA, 4.28 FIP
2018 first round comp. pick blew away hitters at short season ball and earned a late promotion to full season Lake County. His strikeout rate is impressive, but he’ll need to cut down on walks as he moves through the system.
Triston McKenzie, RHP (Age 22)
Former No. 1 Indians prospect injured a muscle in his back during spring training and never pitched in the 2019 season, although he was added to the Tribe’s 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
Bo Naylor, C (Age 19)
2019 (A): 453 PA, .243/.313/.421, 11 HR, 7 SB, 9.5 BB%, 23.0 K%, 110 wRC+
The 2018 first round draft pick skipped Low-A entirely and debuted in full-season ball in 2019. After a slow start, put up above average numbers, including posting double digit home runs, triples and doubles as a catcher.
Brayan Rocchio, SS (Age 18)
2018 (A-): 295 PA, .250/.310/.373, 5 HR, 14 SB, 6.8 BB%, 13.6 K%, 107 wRC+
Venezuelan signed in 2017, held his own as one of the youngest players in the New York Penn League in 2019 while improving his walk rate and power.
George Valera, OF (Age 19)
2019 (A-): 188 PA, .236/.356/.446, 8 HR, 6 SB, 15.4 BB%, 27.7 K%, 142 wRC+
2019 (A): 26 PA, .087/.192/.174, 0 HR, 0 SB, 7.7 BB%, 34.6 K%, 14 wRC+
Struggled to make consistent contact but posted elite on-base and power numbers in short season ball, earning a late promotion to full season Lake County
Who should be the No. 3 Indians prospect?
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